Who needs Tokyo? Meet South Africa's Olympic chameleons

2 years ago 35

Scientists are putting dwarf chameleons through their paces in a series of speed and endurance challenges to study how the species is adapting

The tension is palpable. The first athlete is placed on the starting line and the official timer, Dr Anthony Herrel, resets the stopwatch on his smartphone. Once given the go-ahead, Dr Krystal Tolley tickles the yellowy-green chameleon’s tail and the two-inch reptile springs into action. About 10 seconds later, after reaching the end of the 1-metre dowel in a season’s best time, it returns to the resting area and the next competitor is given a chance to strut its stuff.

In the coming days, 120 Knysna dwarf chameleons (Bradypodion damaranum) – male and female, from forest habitats, gardens and parks – will be put through their paces in a series of speed and endurance challenges that the scientists refer to as the Chameleon Olympics. They will run on horizontal and vertical dowels of varying diameter; have the strength of their bite and gripping forces measured in newtons, and be tested on their ability to thermoregulate along a course that has a temperature gradient.

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